Contactless payment is a method of paying for goods and services that has become more widely available in the last couple of years, to the point where, for some, it has become totally normal. You may find that, when you receive an updated debit card from your bank, it’s got the contactless payment symbol on it, which looks a bit like the very recognisable WiFi symbol.
The idea behind contactless payments is that you simply hold your card over the card reader (where you’d usually enter your PIN) and the payment goes through automatically, without you having to put your PIN into the reader. You’re able to do this for amounts up to £20, and can spend between £45 and £100 in one day before being asked for your PIN.
Of course, any new technology is going to have the odd hiccup and contactless payments are no exception. You may have heard of people being charged more than once for their purchases. Here’s how safe it really is:
Being Charged Multiple Times
When contactless technology became a lot more mainstream, some customers reported having trouble with being charged on more than one card. This issue mainly affected people using their Oyster cards on the London transport system. Oyster cards have worked with contactless technology for years, so regular users were in the habit of simply touching their wallets to the reader just before entering the tube or a London bus. When the Oyster card was in the same wallet as a contactless payment enabled card however, sometimes the Oyster card and their contactless card were charged at the same time. Once this issue was recognised, commuters were encouraged to keep their cards separate.
How to beat it: take the contactless card you want to pay with out of your wallet/purse and keep all other cards away from the payment terminal.
Details Being ‘Hacked’
A loophole existed in the technology at the beginning which meant that your card details, as well as personal details about your name, address etc. could be read from your card using a makeshift hand-held device. Some unlucky people were caught out by this as criminals latched on to the new way of stealing personal payment details. This new type of crime was swiftly recognised, however, and now your details are ‘masked’ when a payment is made.
How to beat it: thankfully, this way of stealing your data has been noticed and a solution has been found, but if you’re still worried then there are special ‘signal blocker’ wallets on the market which are said to work very well.
Paying ‘By Accident’
Many people worry that they’ll walk close to or past a till and the card reader will take a payment from them for someone else’s shopping. This theoretically could happen, but only if you were very close to the reader at exactly the right time. This is because the payment terminal is only ‘open’ to contactless payments at just the right moment. It would be difficult to pay by accident unless you were very close to the card reader.
How to beat it: keep your belongings away from the till until it’s your turn to pay for something. Card readers will beep and let the cashier know when a payment has gone through, so it’s difficult to do this unnoticed.
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